Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blessed 40th Anniversary to Pa&Mummy

Today, 25th August 2013 marks 40 years since my parents got married. Here's a walk down memory lane..

Twenty-fifth August 
Nineteen seventy three
It's been forty years
This anniversary is the Ruby!

For better for worse
For richer for poorer
In sickness and health
You've stuck together!

Now wrinkled and gray
With some aches and pain
You've loved, grown and stayed sane
Your love for each other 
Never did wane
So let's take a walk down memory lane.

Married in Alor Star
At the church in Jalan Langgar
There God blessed you with a daughter
You named her Rebecca.

1977 - moved south to Ipoh
A year later,
God blessed you with Priscilla
another daughter.

Next move to Seremban
Where you had a son, Reuben
A boy, such joy indeed
The family was now complete!

Through the years
far and near
North to south
Blessings beyond wealth

Segamat to Raub
Then Penang and Bentong
Everywhere God sent you
The family went along.

Years passed
The children grew up
Graduated, got married
And now have their own bubs.

A crown to the aged
Are children's children
Six beautiful blessings
With two more in the oven.

Though riches and wealth
You may not have
Neither silver nor gold
Not even a house left.

You've given your all
To serve the Lord
You've given your best
Taught us about God

We look back
Grateful, thankful too
We look ahead
To more that God is going to do

Kong kong and Nana, 
We wish for you
God's richest blessings in your marriage
Love, joy, peace and health too

The legacy you leave
The example you've set
Your love for each other
We will never forget.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

15 Days in Melborne - the drama beforehand and the thanksgiving

I planned and prepared very much in advance for this trip, or so I thought.

Since the end of 2012, we researched the best dates to go, taking into consideration school holidays, Daaling's term and Melbourne weather.

So we finally decided on the August Raya break so the kids would skip only 2 days of school for a whole 2-week break. This would also be at the beginning of Daaling's term and a less busy and non-exam period. I actually wanted to go in late September to see spring flowers but it would be too near joseph's exam. So August it was and in the end, Joseph did not skip school at all.

I bought our air tickets in early February, about 6 months before the trip, when fares were on offer. Later on, I did see fares slightly cheaper but unavailable for the dates we wanted. 

Once air tickets were settled, I booked the accommodation I had so painstakingly researched. I decided on CityEdge apartments because of its strategic location, very reasonable price and the amenities provided.

With flights and accommodation settled, I planned our itinerary to ensure we visited various attractions at off peak times with maximum savings on entrance fees and transport. So I knew we had to visit the farm on the second Saturday of the month and the zoo had to happen on a weekend too. The snow trip on the other hand should happen on a weekday because weekends are peak periods. 

A month before the trip, I dug out the winter clothing, sorted them and washed them in batches before packing. 

A week before the trip, I called MAS to reconfirm our seats, bassinet and child meals.

So I thought everything was in order.

And then...

Four days before we flew, Daaling printed the e-tickets and told me, "Do you realize your name on the ticket is Pxxxxxxxx TAN?????". My immediate response was, "And.....what's the problem?" 

It took a while for me to realize the at magnitude of the problem - tan is my husband's surname. My surname is Chan and that meant that the name on the e-ticket is wrong and I would not be able to get on the plane. OMG!!!!! How could I have been looking at the ticket for the past 6 months and not realize my name is wrong?

Daaling rushed home from work, picked me up and dropped me off at the LRT station and the rushed home. We left Isabel sleeping home alone for about 15 minutes. I went to the MAS office in KL Sentral to sort out the problem, hoping to plead a typo error but they didn't buy it. In the end, they reissued my ticket with a USD30 fine. Thank God it was not too hefty. 

The second incident was at KLIA. We arrived early with plenty of time to spare because I wanted to have sufficient time to check in and then feed the kids a proper dinner before getting to the gate by 9pm. At check in, the guy took quite a while and then he asked for Joseph's visa. Upon inspection, he showed me that the wrong passport number had been keyed in for his visa. His passport number is xxxx3988 while the one in his visa is xxxx3888 and that means his boarding pass cannot be issued and he can't get on the plane. OMG!!! 

I blame myself for not checking earlier and trusting the travel agent entirely. The MAS officer had to send a message to Canberra and wait for a reply. He told us to return in 10 minutes because there was nothing he could do in the meantime. We prayed hard while waiting and thank God, Canberra approved the change and Joseph got his boarding pass.
By this time, I just wanted to get on the plane and hope that the rest of the trip would be smooth sailing.

Thank God there was not much drama for the rest of the trip. The children were great on the plane and dealt with minimal jetlag with minimal fuss.

Thank God for a problem-free pregnancy. I had some worries that Australian immigration or the airline might stop me so I had the necessary gynae’s letter but nobody even bat an eyelid at my tummy and nobody asked for any document.

Thank God for his strength and protection at all times. It was really no joke bringing 3 young children and a big belly around the city using public transport. Joseph was really helpful especially in watching Isabel and following her around the various playgrounds and climbing up and down with her.

The day before we were to fly home, we were at the Albert Park playground when Joseph decided to be a superhero and jump from a platform about 1.5m off the ground. There was a fireman pole but he thought it would be more exciting to jump. Boys…. So jump he did and on the 3rd of 4th jump, he curled up in pain and said his left foot hurt. He hopped on one foot to a nearby bench whereby I examined him.

Seeing that there was hardly any swelling, I concluded that there was no fracture and whatever sprain/injury he had could wait till we got home. Thank God – by the time we landed in KL, he was fine and able to jump and kick his sister.

All in, I thank God for a great holiday and 15 wonderful days of spending 24/7 with my children. I will always cherish the memories of bringing them to all the lovely parks and the lovely picnics we had.  


Monday, August 19, 2013

15 Days in Melbourne - Week 2

Tuesday 13 Aug 2013 - I made a dash to Queen Victoria Market before Daaling went out to work. It's a 3-minute walk from where we are staying and opens as early as 6am! Fruits are so much cheaper here than at Coles/Woolworths! I bought 15 kiwi fruits for merely AUD$2!!!

After I got home from the market and cooked their lunch, Isabel woke up from her morning nap and I took the kids out to the Shrine of Remembrance. We took the free Visitor Shuttle Bus to get here.

Joseph was very fascinated with this eternal flame. I did a lot of explaining to him and it was like a history lesson for the kids.

We talked about war and peace, allies and soldiers. I'm glad he was very interested.

We also walked all the way up to the balcony. Yup, Isabel climbed all those stairs with Joseph and Joy while I carried the stroller.

After the Shrine of Remembrance, we walked across to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Daffodils made Joy very happy!

We were planning to sit by the lake to look at ducks while having a snack but there were three very fierce black swans. One walked up to Isabel and pecked the cookie out of her hand. So we retreated further from the lake. To my horror....the swans followed us!

So we walked further away and sat on a bench out of sight from the swans. I fed Isabel her cereal while the older 2 ate TimTams. As we were finishing, the swans found us and started to approach Isabel who was holding another piece of cookie. So we quickly packed up and walked away. 

 I think black swans like white chocolate macadamia cookies.

Wednesday 14 August 2013 - The weather forecast was a wet rainy day and I didn't want to risk getting caught in the rain and getting sick. So we stayed mostly indoors. 

Having done some homework, I knew there was going to be some storytime/playgroup at the State Library in the morning so that's where we went. It's a 5-minute walk from our apartment. (I did say our apartment is in a great location, right?)

There was some craft and sing-a-long which entertained Isabel but the older 2 found rather childish and boring. After the play time, we sat outside the library for lunch while watching the trams go by. Then we walked to Target to check out the toys. 

Thursday 15 August 2013 - I went to Queen Victoria Market again. Bought another loot of fruits....15 kiwis for AUD$2, grapes were also AUD$2 for a huge bunch, bananas were 99cents a kilo and the avocados were 50cents each.

Tim Tam was also on offer at WoolWorths at merely AUD$1.62 and we bought a lot!

After Queen Victoria Market, I came home to cook lunch and then took the kids out to the Carlton Gardens Playground.

It's located right behind the Melbourne Museum and a short walk (about 500m) from the nearest City Circle Tram stop.

 I love it that the playgrounds are all very clean and well-maintained.
 There's also always a water cooler and decently-clean public toilets within reach.
 Isabel is suddenly so independent and not at all intimidated by the huge structures. She climbed all the stairs on her own and gave me multiple heart attacks.

After the playground, I anticipated Isabel would sleep if I pushed her in the stroller and so I decided to walk back instead of taking the City Circle Tram. So I made the older 2 walk the whole way back. It wasn't a very long walk.....maybe a kilometer or slightly more. But while Joy was positive about it, Joseph whined and grumbled most of the way back while I gave him a pep talk about how he should be thankful that he has strong healthy legs to walk with. And just as I anticipated, Isabel slept soundly till long after we got back.

Friday 16 August 2013 - I found another playground just around the corner from our apartment (I love this location!!!). Flagstaff Gardens is a mere 5-minute walk from our place.

Every playground we've been to has different contraptions and structures so it's a new thing for the kids.
 It's a great way for them to spend their energy and they all sleep very soundly at night.
After lunch at the park, we came home for a good 3-hour nap because we planned to go out in the evening to see the fireworks at Docklands. Unfortunately, the fireworks were cancelled because of very very strong winds. Nevertheless, I'm thankful that the kids did not complain nor whine and in fact were very positive with response like "it's ok....we've seen fireworks in Malaysia before."

Saturday 17 August 2013 - this was our last full day in Melbourne. We met up with Daaling's cousin, his wife and his baby for a BBQ lunch at Albert Park.

The kids had a good time at the playground again.

Unfortunately, Joseph had a little misadventure. Boys will be boys....and boys love to jump! So jump he did....from a height of about 1.5m where he was supposed to slide down using the fireman pole. He must have had a bad landing on his left foot because he could not walk properly thereafter. 

After consulting a doctor-friend in Melbourne (via sms) and also our insurance agent (via Watsapp) back home and seeing that Joseph was not in excruciating pain, we decided to wait till getting home to see a doctor.

I'm thankful that this did not happen earlier and in a way, it's a lesson for Joseph to not complain when he has to walk. 

I'm very thankful for this 2-week holiday. It has been a good experience and a very educational trip for the children. While challenging, I'm glad I got to do all this city-gallivanting with 3 children (well, technically 4!). I know it's something I could never do back home because the weather and the infrastructure just doesn't permit. 

Over here, I can push the stroller everywhere because of the wide walkways. Wide walkways just do not exist in Malaysia. 

yes...we consumed a LOT of ice cream, yoghurt and milk.
But the dry weather really breaks my skin. The back of my ankles and my knuckles hurt badly. My lips were all cracked up the first couple of days. Isabel had rosy cheeks but up close they look more like a dry rash.

Holidays are good. But I'm glad to be home in my own comfy cosy bed. Indeed.....I want to give thanks to God for all his wonderful blessings.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

15 days in Melbourne - Week 1

We spent 15 lovely days in Melbourne during the Raya holidays.
Dinner at the Plaza Premium Lounge KLIA - free entry with Citibank Platinum Credit Card
As we were boarding the plane, we were told that Joy's seat had a faulty AV screen. The MAS staff at the gate apologized profusely and on board, the chief steward again apologized. We were alright with it since it was a night flight and the kids would be sleeping. But the chief steward offered a RM100 voucher for in-flight shopping and so we bought some toys for the kids as souvenir. 

The flight was delayed for 1.5 hours and we waited in the plane as it sat on the tarmac. Apparently one passenger did not board the plane and his bags had to be retrieved. There was also some damage to some cargo panel and engineers replaced it while we waited. Oh well, better late and safe. It worked out well for us because I managed to put Isabel to sleep before take off.

We also landed later the next morning in Melbourne which was good for us because we couldn't check in till 2pm.

Once in the city, we dropped off our bags and then went looking for food and groceries. We stayed at City Edge Apartments on Elizabeth St. Located on the corner of A'Beckett St and Elizabeth St, this was a very convenient location. 
We booked early and paid only AUD$85 per night. It had a queen-sized bed in the bedroom and a sofa bed out in the living room and comfortably slept all 5 of us. This tiny apartment was also very well equipped with a kitchenette (2 gas hobs, microwave, dishwasher, fridge, pots and pans, eating/cooking utensils, bread toaster, electric kettle) and a washing machine/dryer in the spacious bathroom. That was really important as I had to do laundry every day! Useful items like hair dryer, iron & ironing board (not that I used it) were also available. 

kids enjoyed the yoghurt - RM20 in Malaysia. AUD$4 in Melbourne.

Since this was a working visit for Daaling, he spent all the weekdays at the university while I took all 3 kids to parks and playgrounds. I googled for playgrounds around the city and dare say I'm quite an expert now at getting around. It was rather challenging getting up and down trams with a 28-week belly, Isabel in one arm and stroller in another hand but people were helpful and kind. 

I got around using the City Circle Tram to save cost. It's a free service that runs the perimeter of the CBD.

We spent most days eating packed lunch at playgrounds. The older 2 skipped their naps and slept early at night. Isabel slept in her stroller whenever she wanted to.

Monday 5Aug2013 - Birrarung Marr

After exploring Federation Square and the Birrarung Marr playground on our first day, we stopped by the Victoria State Library on Swanston St.
Yes, it's a library - but not a lending library. That means you can't borrow books. But you can play Wii for free!!!

Tuesday 6Aug2013 - We visited the Melbourne Museum. On the way there, the kids got distracted by some ducks in Carlton Gardens.

A nice lady gave them a bag of bread and they happily fed the ducks.

The Melbourne Museum is so unlike our Muzium Negara back home.

It really is a very fun place where you can spend the entire day.

Kids enter for free while it's AUD$10 for adults. I would say it's money very well-spent.

The kids really enjoyed the Children's Gallery...

I was surprised to learn that I currently weigh more than an emperor penguin!!!

Wednesday 7Aug 2013 - We explored Docklands and Harbourtown.

Joseph remembered this Cow in the Tree structure where we took a photo 4 years ago.
We had lunch at a playground known as Docklands Park. This is on the corner of Spencer St and Collins St and not as shown on google maps (slightly further north).

After lunch and some playing, we took the City Circle Tram to the City Library. Located on Flinders Lane, this is a lending library. I registered on the spot (with photo ID i.e. passport) and was issued a membership card enabling me to borrow items.

what I don't like about the cold - having to bundle up so many babies!

what I like about Melbourne - my favourite ice cream is cheap! RM34.90 in Malaysia, only AUD$5 in Melbourne!
Thursday 8Aug2013 - Joseph woke up early and threw up! He also had a fever. I think getting caught in the rain the day before + jet lag + getting really tired finally got to him. Thank God I brought paracetamol which came in very handy. We spent Thursday and Friday resting and recovering for a busy weekend ahead. 

Saturday 10 Aug 2013 - Joseph is all better and the weather forecast a sunny weekend. We visit Collingwood Children's Farm in Abbotsford. It's a short bus ride there. Normal entrance fee is AUD$16 per family but today being the second Saturday of the month, it's Farmer's Market day and kids enter free while it's only AUD$2 per adult before 1pm. 

We get there in time for the cow milking at 10am.

Joy did not chicken out and kept her word with putting her hand to the cow's udder.

They also had a good time brushing the cow.
How now brown cow....?

We checked out the other animals at the farm - the kids had a fun and very educational morning.

pigs are not pink and cute!
After the farm, we made our way by tram (AUD$3.50 per day gets you unlimited travel on all trains, trams and buses on weekends) to Albert Park for a picnic lunch.

After lunch the kids spent their energy at the huge wooden fort-like playground.

Isabel finally overcame her fear of slides and now goes "wheeee!!!" all by herself.

Sunday 11Aug2013 - We visit Melbourne Zoo.
On weekends, kids enter for free (AUD$13.20 on weekdays). You would have noticed by now that I did a lot of homework to ensure maximum savings of RM!
It was a very lovely day to explore the zoo - Thank God for great weather.

Joe and Joy were very tickled by the white imitated everything the lady did.

Joy overcame her fear of flying butterflies...

We also caught the penguin feeding at 3.30pm. This is so much more kid-friendly than travelling all the way to Philip Island and waiting in the freezing cold.

Lunch at the Carousel Park was followed by a run in the playground...but of course!
Four years ago we came with 2 kids. Hopefully....we can return in 2 years with 4 kids.

Monday 12Aug2013 - We visit Lake Mountain for a day in the snow.

This was our CafeBus. It's a cozy 18-seater bus with unlimited servings of coffee/tea/hot chocolate.

After a leisurely 1.5hour drive through the Yarra Valley and Marysville, we arrived at Lake Mountain Alpine Resort at about 10am.
...and boy, was it cold!!!!
am I supposed to look cute like this???
I had sewn some waterproof pants for the girls using leftover PUL material (the kind used for cloth diapers) so we only had to rent 2 sets of boots+PVC pants+toboggan. Joe had a blast!

It rained hail for a while. Joy was not too adventurous for long but Joseph really enjoyed himself.

For the record, I also sewed their beanies (those things on their heads) using old teviron (special keep warm material) knee guards.
At some point, it snowed. We got lucky I guess since it doesn't snow all the time.
This was my first experience with snow and I think I'll be quite happy in tropical Malaysia. Isabel didn't quite like it either.

On the way home, we stopped at the Yarra Valley Chocolate Factory where the kids had a good time helping themselves to lots of free samples. I think Joy ate enough on behalf of the entire Tan Family.

Thus ended our very enjoyable first week in Melbourne.